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Dressing senses infection with color change

Assessing whether a wound has become infected is not straightforward. A doctor or nurse needs to undress the wound (which takes time and care) and then take a sample for testing. Test results can take up to 48 hours to come through, using methods of bacterial culture.

The concept of having a color indicator affixed to the wound means a prompt medical decision can be made and the patient can be administered the appropriate treatment. This was the idea behind the color changing wound dressing.

The new dressing uses nanotechnology. The dressing releases a fluorescent dye, contained within nanocapsules. On release the dressing flows a yellow-green color.

The nanocapsules are designed to work in a similar way to skin cells, in that they are activated when they come into contact with specific bacteria. The release is triggered by the toxins secreted by any pathogens present in the wound. This activity has been described as a type of “biomedical catalyst.”

A trial involving the bandage is set to begin. To verify the color change, medical staff will be taking swabs and samples of blister fluid from young burns patients and connecting these to patients’ symptoms. Trials will take place at Bristol Children’s Hospital and Queen Victoria Hospital in West Sussex, both of which are in the U.K.

One of the researchers involved, Dr Amber Young, told Controlled Environments magazine: “Children are at particular risk of serious infection from even a small burn. However, with current methods clinicians can’t tell whether a sick child might have a raised temperature due to a serious bacterial burn wound infection, or just from a simple cough or cold.”

The bandage was a three-way collaboration between scientists working at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath, in collaboration with the Healing Foundation Children’s Burns Research Centre based at the Bristol Children’s Hospital, and the University of Brighton.

The development has been reported to the peer reviewed journal Applied Materials and Interfaces. The paper is headed “Prototype Development of the Intelligent Hydrogel Wound Dressing and Its Efficacy in the Detection of Model Pathogenic Wound Biofilms.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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